Patients, carers and NHS staff to be infused with the blood plasma harvested from “hyperimmune” people who have recovered from the infection, says an article published in The Guardian.
Attempt to save lives
Doctors plan to infuse British coronavirus patients and their carers with blood plasma harvested from “hyperimmune” people who have recovered from the infection in an attempt to save lives.
The experimental treatment will be directed at –
- Patients admitted to hospital with pneumonia caused by the virus, hoping it would reduce the number who end up on ventilators in intensive care units (ICUs).
- Those in close contact with Covid-19 patients, such as NHS staff and family members, are also in line to be offered the treatment.
This is an effort to stem the spread of the illness and further reduce pressure on the health service.
Donate blood for the treatment
Antibodies in blood plasma
The procedure relies on the fact that people who have recovered from Covid-19 have antibodies in their blood plasma that maintain a defence against the infection.
The aim is to identify those who are “hyperimmune” to the virus and invite them to donate blood for the treatment.
Infusion of convalescent plasma
So-called “convalescent plasma” would be given to patients and their contacts in a number of clinical trials that are under consideration with medical funding bodies.
Prof David Tappin, a senior research fellow at the University of Glasgow, has applied to the National Institute for Health Research to run two clinical trials with convalescent plasma.
“Start-ups will need to be faster than is normal, with most other trials usually taking months or years to get approvals and to begin,” he said.
Evidence looked for from trials
He said that the trials will look for evidence that convalescent plasma can:
- reduce infections in carers so they can continue their work,
- prevent patients deteriorating to the point that they require ventilation in ICUs,
- improve the condition of those who are already severely ill, to reduce deaths and
- free up the much-needed ventilators.
Tappin said trials need to be undertaken to know if this intervention is effective and worthwhile.
“It may not be a silver bullet, or it may work for instance to stem the development of Covid-19 infection in contacts such as healthcare workers and their families, but not perhaps be as effective to treat severely ill patients being ventilated.”
Parallel trials of convalescent plasma
Prof Robert Lechler, the president of the Academy of Medical Sciences and executive director of King’s Health Partners, comprising King’s College London and three major London hospitals, said the group intended to conduct parallel trials of convalescent plasma.
According to a spokesperson, NHS Blood and Transplant has already begun work to identify potential donors.
How is it a possible cure?
- Plasma from patients who have recovered from Covid-19 will contain antibodies that their immune systems have produced in fighting the virus.
- That plasma can be transfused to very poorly patients whose own immune systems are struggling to develop their own antibodies.
- The plasma transfusion is therefore intended to provide the poorly patient with antibodies from a recovered patient to help their body fight the Covid-19 virus.
The blood products will be screened to ensure they are safe to transfuse.
The UK effort has been fuelled by a grassroots collaboration in the US in which 100 laboratories have joined forces to produce convalescent plasma for patients pouring into hospitals across the country.
After receiving approval from the Food and Drug Administration, doctors in the US are now able to give plasma to patients under compassionate use rules.
Effective if treated early
Prof Arturo Casadevall, an infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, who is involved in the US effort, said infusions of antibodies may be more effective if they are given early on to wipe out the virus before it causes serious damage.
Potentially, he said, an infusion of convalescent plasma could protect people from the virus for several weeks.
The next step
Chinese researchers reported that convalescent plasma appeared to help Covid-19 patients on ventilation, but the study involved only five patients.
Casadevall has shared the US procedures with Tappin and Lechler to help them develop the procedure in the UK. “I said, the best thing you can do is try and establish a network in the UK because ultimately all this is going to have to be done locally,” he said.
He said that the Chinese have been using it and reporting good results, but it needs to be tested. “This is not a panacea or a miracle cure; it’s something to try and put in place to see if we can help stem the epidemic.”
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Source: The Guardian